Far East Ceramics Collection: China, Japan, South-East Asia, International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza

The opening of an exhibition hall devoted to ceramics from the Far East represents for the International Museum of ceramics in Faenza the goal of a long lasting project in collaboration with the National Museum of Eastern Art “Giuseppe Tucci” in Rome. About 400 ceramics will be displayed in the new section, they represent the main centres of production of the Far East. These sites are symbols of the history of the international trade of porcelain since Marco Polo time up to the Eastern Indie Company which allowed Europe to appreciate and imitate the technique and art of potters from China, Japan, Thailand – the Ancient Siam – and Vietnam.

The section dedicated to Far Eastern ceramics is connected to the exhibition spaces on the ground floor, reflecting human creativity of ‘other’ cultures (Pre-Columbian, Classical civilization, the ancient Near East, the Islamic world). Ceramics on display are representative of the major ceramic production centres of east Asia, mainstays of the history of the international porcelain trade from the times of Marco Polo to those of the East India Company, through which Europe knew, appreciated and imitated the technical and artistic brilliance of Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian potters. An exceptional eighteenth century gilded and painted bronze statue, depicting Duo Wen Tianwang (‘He who hears everything’), Heavenly King of the North, introduces the exhibition.

The exhibits allow the visitors to enjoy the wonderful goods arrived to Europe through the “porcelain route”, just like our ancestors. The production represent items from the main centre of Jingdezhen, in the Chinese area of Jiangxi, from the well-known kilns of Longquan in Zhejiang district. Representative are the porcelains – the famous “white and blue” vases – produced in Jingdezhen both for the refined Chinese market during the two last dynasties Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) and for the exportation towards Occident (the white and blue Kraak and Swatow particularly imitated in Delft and other countries) between 1550 and 1650, the period of more restricted monopoly of the Duch trade with the Eastern Indie. Beside them there are the excellent “white and blue” dishes made in Japan by the kilns of Arita, main centre of production of the archipelago that, in 17th and 18th century, was able to compete with China production. Always from Japan, Arita, are the porcelains Imari decorated with red and gold added to white and blue.

In the Japanese section there are extraordinarily refined stoneware potteries realized mostly in Seto, in the Isle of Kyushu, one of the “seven old kilns” of Japan active since the 12th century. There are also stoneware works glazed in several styles (among them the well-known raku cups red or black) used for the “Tea ceremony” or for sake

Of great interest there are the two 19th century porcelain Bencharong and Lai Nam Thong produced in Jingdezhen, in China, for the sole King of Siam Court, nowadays Thailand, which are richly decorated with coloured scene of Buddhist inspiration.

In the exhibition there are also items with religious subjects, not only made of ceramics, such as the exceptional statue in bronze representing the King Duo Wen Tianwang (the Man who hears everything) that welcome the visitors at the beginning of the hall.

The exposition through the “Porcelain route” is supported by informative panels for the enriching the visit.

The selection of works and scientific project was coordinated by professor Roberto Ciarla (National Museum of Eastern Art “Giuseppe Tucci”) in collaboration with Fiorella Rispoli (Italian Institute for Africa and Orient), Chiara Molinari, a young scholar collaborating with the MIC Foundation and with the staff of the Museum.


Statue of the Celestial King Duo Wen Tianwan (1700 – 1800)
The statue portrays one of the four Celestial Kings divinities placed inside the Chinese Buddhist temples to protect the main altar. He is Duo Wen Tianwan he who hears everything, the Chinese version.

Figue of a tiger (1800)
Bowl with phoenix and peony design (1100 – 1200)

Vase (1300 – 1400)
The “céladon” covered with grey-green glaze, originated in Southern China where they were exclusively produced until the 10th century, were known in China as “Yue” ceramics.

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Bowl (1736 – 1795)
Here are painted the supernatural group of the “8 immortals” who are the protagonist of Taoist legend.These man are crossing the ocean. The bowl is dated during the Quialong Emperor (1736-1795)

Sauce dish (1600 – 1700)
Starting from the 17th century, thanks to the rebirth of the Jingdezhen kilns, the monochrome porcelain have represented a noteworthy Chinese production. The yellow is symbol of the Imperial family

Statue of Guanyin (1785 – 1815)
The statue represents Guanyin (“she who hears” the voices from the world) the Buddhist divinity of the Mercy who holds on a vase containing ambrosia the balm alleviating all the wounds and a fly-swatter to throw out the Evil

Vase for alcoholic beverages (1200 – 1300)
This Korean style big vase used to contain alcoholic beverages is part of the stoneware vessels production characterized by the sober and undecorated shapes as it wants archaic ceramic tradition.

Dish with a “ko-mari” geeting decoration (1670 – 1700)
The japanese dish is decorated in the “Shoki Imari” style inspired from the Chinese “blue and white” patterns producted by Arita kilns, devoted to the trade with the Portuguese and Dutch merchants

Imari ornamental vase (1710 – 1759)
The vase with is decorated with greeting motives on a “brocade” style background. The Imari “golden brocade” style (Imari kinrade) is the best known Japanese porcelain typology in the Western world

Rice bowl with a lid “Thèapanon” and flowers of… (1820 – 1850)
These rich and refined porcelains belonging to the “Bencharong” and “Lai Nam Thong” kinds were exclusively used by the Thai royal family. They are also known as “sino-thai ceramics”

International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza
The International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza was founded in 1908 and represents one of the greatest Museums devoted to ceramics in the world. The MIC preserves about 60.000 ceramic works, 6.000 of them are exhibited in the wide exhibition area, about 10.000 squared metres.

The International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza houses many works in its ample exhibition spaces; from Italian and European works from Medieval Ages to the nineteenth century, to important sections dedicated to pre-Colombian America, ancient Greece, the Roman period, the Middle East and Islamic ceramics.

Specific areas are dedicated to ceramics by the most important twentieth century and contemporary artists, both Italian and foreign. An impressive modern and contemporary collection containing pieces by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Leger, Fontana, Burri, Arman, Baj, Leoncillo, Leoni, Spagnulo, Zauli, Melotti, Cerone, and other great masters. The MIC – Foundation represents a center for ceramic culture, it contains a specialized library (more than 60.000 texts), a school department, a restoration deparment. The review “Faenza” is edited at the MIC and sent to several museums and institutions in the world.

The Museum also contains a specialised library, the Giocare con l’Arte (Playing with Art) Laboratory for didactics utilizing the Bruno Munari method, and the Restoration Laboratory which has the task of maintenance of the works and also conservation in general, an essential point of contact for the technical and technological unique nature of ceramics. The Museum began publishing the review “Faenza” in 1913. The bookshop contains all of the Museum publications, from a wide choice of books dedicated to ceramics to a selection of ceramic objects produced by artisans from Faenza.